Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
The university’s Professional and Graduate Studies program had been in existence for over 25 years without a permanent home on campus. A program for working professionals to secure a graduate degree, classes were scheduled wherever space could be found. Staff and administration were scattered across campus causing difficulties in growing the program.
When a 3-story former office building in close proximity to the campus became available; the University purchased the facility and charged the design team with creating a new home for the program that would mimic a professional corporate look, something the majority of the students in the program would be familiar with.
Working with staff of the University a program was developed to provide learning spaces, administrative, student services space and extended learning space through the use of circulation square footage. A complete analysis of the site and building systems were performed and different layout options were considered; with the successful plan further evaluated against building/fire codes.
While the existing building had many windows, the interior consisted of many small offices with narrow hallways connecting them. The maze of walls blocked off any sense of the outdoors and natural light; creating a dark, cramped feeling when entering. The existing interior was completely gutted to structural elements and the existing elevator on all floors. Space was repurposed to accommodate the educational program and the building received a new spacious lobby/entrance addition.
The owner’s program requirements exceeded available space which provided the impetus to propose a solution that seemed counter to the problem. By widening circulation space the design team was able to capture this space for important extended learning areas and use as lounge space in lieu of just passing through. In turn this space was enhanced by capturing natural light through glass partition corridor walls.